Clifford Harcourt Rees – Major General, United States Air Force

Courtesy of the United States Air Force

Retired July 1962
Commander, Air Photographic & Charting Service

Clifford Harcourt Rees was born in Cynthiana, Kentucky, in 1909. He graduated from high school there in 1927, attended the University of Virginia for a year, then entered the U.S. Military Academy. On graduating in 1932, he began flight training and was awarded pilot wings in October 1933. His first assignment with the Army Air Corps was at Luke Field, Territory of Hawaii. In February 1936, he was transferred to Langley Field, Virginia.

In the remaining pre-war years, General Rees was first a student of armament in the Air Corps Technical School at Lowry Field, Colorado; then graduating in 1939, he became assistant director of armament instruction.

In April 1942, as a lieutenant colonel, he “was named assistant chief of staff for operations of the Fourth District, Army Air Forces Technical Training Command at Denver, Colo.” In July 1942, he was assigned to Headquarters Technical Training Command, Knollwood, North Carolina. In August 1943, he was transferred to Headquarters Army Air Forces Training Command, Fort Worth, Texas.

In November 1944, he assumed command of the 307th Bombardment Group, a combat-seasoned unit then engaged in the recovery of the Philippines. On January 6, 1945, General (then Colonel) Rees led the first air strike against Manila. On the approach his B-24 was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Despite severe structural damage and
loss of an engine, he maintained his course and, at a dangerously low altitude, delivered the bomb load on target. Protected by other B-24s in the formation, he coaxed his aircraft to Mindoro and down onto a grass field held by Americans. Before his return to the United States in December 1945, he flew 24 combat missions in B-24 aircraft.

His peacetime assignments include the Army Air Forces Training Command at Fort Worth, Texas, and Barksdale Field, Louisiana. Then, in chronological order: Army Air Forces headquarters in the Pentagon; 1st Fighter Wing at March Air Force Base, California; and the 92nd and 98th Bombardment Wings at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington.

At the outbreak of the Korean conflict he was commander of these last two bombardment wings and soon was overseas. From August 5 to November 1, 1950, he led their B-29s on 11 missions.

On January 4, 1951, he was designated chief of Staff, Eighth Air Force, Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. In October 1951, he was sent to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Defense College, Paris, France, as an instructor. In June 1952, he became chief of staff of the Allied Air Forces in Northern Europe with headquarters in Oslo, Norway. On October 17, 1952, he was notified of his promotion to Brigadier General.

Returning to the United States in late 1954, he was assigned to Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, Missouri, as deputy commander for operations, Central Air Defense Force. When the 20th Air Division was activated at that base, he became commander.

On March 20, 1958, General Rees took command of the Air Photographic and Charting Service.

His promotion to major general became effective on July 1, 1961 with effective date of rank 1 Aug 1956.


1. Graduated Cynthiana High School, Cynthiana, Kentucky, 1927
2. University of Virginia (1 year), 1927-1928
3. Graduated U.S. Military Academy, 1932
4. Advanced Flying School, Kelly, Field, Texas, 1933
5. Celestial Navigation School, Langley Field, Virginia, 1937
6. Air Corps Technical School (Armament), Lowry Field, Colorado, 1939


1. 1928-June 1932 Cadet, U.S. Military Academy
2. June 1932-October 1933 Student officer, Flying Training Schools, Randolph and Kelly fields, Texas
3. October 1933-February 1936 General duties, 72d Bombardment Squadron, Luke Field, Territory of Hawaii
4. February 1936-November 1938 – General duties, 2d Bombardment Group, Langley Field, Virginia. (Served as instructor in Celestial Navigation School there, for part of the time.)

During these years, he engaged in two noteworthy missions. In 1937, he participated in the longest over-water flight made by tactical aircraft up to that time, when planes of the 2d Bomb Group were deployed to Albrook Field, on a simulated mission of assistance in reinforcing defenses of the Canal Zone.

In 1938, he served as a navigator on one of three B-17s of the 49th Bombardment Squadron dispatched, on May 12, to intercept the Italian liner Rex, then in the North Atlantic. Despite heavy clouds, the three-plane formation, guided only by a radio message giving the general location of the “target,” sighted the ship 725 miles
east of New York and flew over the Rex before returning to its base. (This navigational test was one of the major events of the May 1938 maneuvers conducted by the General Headquarters Air Force, located at Langley Field.)

5. November 1938-June 1939 Air Corps Technical School (Armament), Lowry Field, Colorado.
6. June 1939-April 1942 Assistant director, Department of Armament, Air Corps Technical School, Lowry Field, Colorado.
7. April 1942-July 1942 Assistant chief of staff/operations, Fourth District, Army Air Forces Technical Training Command, Denver, Colorado.
8. July 1942-August 1943 Deputy assistant chief of staff/operations (until May 1943) then assistant chief of staff/operations, Headquarters Technical Training Command, Knollwood, North Carolina.
9. August 1943-July 1944 Deputy for technical training, Office of Assistant Chief of Staff/Operations, Army Air Forces Training Command, Fort Worth, Texas
10. July 1944-November 1944 Deputy chief of staff, Army Air Forces Training Command, Fort Worth, Texas
11. November 1944-December 1945 Commander, 307th Bomb Group, Southwest Pacific
12. December 1945-July 1946 Assistant chief of staff/operations, Army Air Forces Training Command, Barksdale Field, Louisiana.
13. July 1946 – May 1948-Executive officer, Office of Assistant Chief of Staff/Personnel, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
14. May 1948-May 1949 Commander, 1st Fighter Wing, March Air Force Base, California.
15. May 1949-January 1951 Commander, 92d and 98th Bomb Wings, Spokane Air Force Base, Washington. Took operational elements of the two organizations overseas during the Korean Conflict
16. January 1951-September 1951 Chief of staff, Eighth Air Force, Carswell Air Force Base, Texas
17. September 1951-June 1952 Air Force instructor, NATO Defense College, Paris France
18. June 1952-October 1954 Chief of staff, Allied Air Forces in Northern Europe, Oslo, Norway
19. October 1954-October 1955 Deputy chief of staff/operations, Central Air Defense Force, Air Defense Command, Richards-Gebaur (then Grandview) Air Force Base, Missouri.
20. October 1955-March 1958 Commander, 20th Air Division (Defense), Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, Missouri.
21. March 1958-Present Commander, Air Photographic and Charting Service (MATS), Orlando Air Force Base, Florida.

(Principal ones only)
Legion of Merit November 1944
First oak leaf cluster November 13, 1945
Second oak leaf cluster May 27, 1958
Distinguished Flying Cross January 6, 1945
Air Medal February 7, 1945
First oak leaf cluster Jun 20, 1945
Second oak leaf cluster September 30, 1950
Bronze Star Sep 26, 1950
Army Commendation Medal September 14, 1944
First oak leaf cluster Apr 12, 1946

Promotion to major general July 1, 1961, with effective date of rank 1 August 1956.

The General died on June 10, 1992 and was buried in Section 7A, Arlington National Cemetery.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 05/06/1909
  • DATE OF DEATH: 06/10/1992


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 09/23/1912
  • DATE OF DEATH: 06/29/2002


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